August 9, 2023

Canadians at Oshkosh

Jon Robinson

— By Phil Lightstone

The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) at AirVenture 2023 on July 25 hosted a meet and greet event at SOS Brothers Beer Tent. Flying a large yellow with red lettering balloon, it was easy to find the COPA gathering. The COPA BBQ offered beverages and food with large tents to allow patrons to get out of the sun or rain, as well as daily parking during AirVenture (US$25 per day with free parking after the evening air shows).

More than 320 COPA members and industry partners gathered at the all-Canadian BBQ for beer and bratwurst. With all the fixings, the food was outstanding. Five COPA Directors and three staff members, including Mark van Berkel, Jim Ferrier and George Farrington, attended the event, mingling with COPA members to chat about Canadian aviation.

“The BBQ was open to all Canadians attending Oshkosh. We anticipated 300 and we ended up getting some last-minute additional tickets for the event to try and offset some of the demand,” said Mark van Berkel, President and CEO, COPA. “All of the tickets were gone the first day and we still had people show up at the event just to socialize without the food and drink tickets. We easily had 320-plus people in attendance. Members, non-members, families, and a few invited guests. Very nice to see. All the tables inside the tent were occupied and people were sitting on the grass outside the tent too.”

Folks attending the COPA event gathered at the BBQ tent, sheltered from the weather, which was mostly few clouds, lots of sunshine and a tolerable amount of heat. Shortly after 5:00 pm, a line formed inside the tent, exchanging tickets for a beverage ticket and a COPA baseball hat (for members only), with 200 hats gone in roughly 15 minutes.

Gary and Beverly Martin of Smithville, ON, flew to AirVenture in the Piper Cherokee Six (C-FZBP). Both are licensed pilots, married for the past 10 years with Beverly reporting that flying keeps them together. With 88 acres and a grass strip, they are accustomed to other pilots dropping in for a social coffee. John van Lieshout of COPA Flight 44 sees AirVenture and the COPA event as a way to network, meeting new and old friends.

Flying out of Sudbury, ON, twin brothers David and Bill Chisholm with wives Karen and Christine flew to AirVenture in their Piper Cherokee Six. While they also own a Cessna 180 on amphibious floats, the Cherokee Six is more like a station wagon, able to carry the Chisholm family and all their gear. This was their 13th year attending AirVenture, with no doubt more to come.

COPA’s exhibited at AirVenture in Hanger D in the International Federal Pavilion. COPA members from COPA Flight 70 Durham Region volunteered to staff the booth in addition to COPA staffers and directors. While it’s hard to estimate the number of people flowing through the booth, the traffic was steady with little down time for people pulling booth duty. Some people just stopped by to see what swag was available.

COPA stickers and pins were very popular. Hot topics of discussion included: Basic Med for US pilots flying to Canada; Canadian ADS-B and impacts to General Aviation (check out my article in August 2023 edition of Aviation Consumer); COPA Aviation Academy; Transport Canada’s NPA 2023-005; and COPA’s recurrent training seminar, which was delivered to a full house.

“The value [AirVenture] adds is representing the Canadian Aircraft Owners and Pilots at the largest General Aviation gathering in the world,” said van Berkel. “We get to meet with other industry colleagues, learn about what others are doing, see old friends and make news ones….and have fun.

“Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the demand for the BBQ event. I think we need to start thinking about how we roll it out for next year to make sure everyone who wants to come can,” continued van Berkel. “I think AirVenture will become a regular place for COPA members to see us. Walking around the parked aircraft there were quite a number a C-registered planes here. We have been taking pictures and posting them on our social media sites. This could actually be someone’s full-time Oshkosh job.”

For those who have never been to the EAA’s AirVenture before, it is a must do item to have in your logbook. Flying into Whittman Regional Airport (KOSH is reputed to be the world’s busiest airport during AirVenture) is a badge of honour and an accomplishment. Flying into regional airports like Appleton (KATW), Green Bay (KGRB) and Fond du Lac (KFLD) eliminates the stress of operating in a high traffic environment.

Flying the Commander from Buttonville Municipal Airport (CYKZ) to Appleton (KATW) was a non-event, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the field and a quick three-hour flight. At the time of my arrival, I was the only aircraft in the pattern, making landing and taxing easy as pie. PRO TIP: For rookie pilots, consider taking an AirVenture veteran with you.

AirVenture is jam packed with things to do, see and people to meet, as well as cool aircraft, educational seminars/forums, airshows, evening movies and the latest in aviation products and services. AirVenture delivers an aviation adventure that you will not regret.